Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 25: 6-10A; Ps 23: 1-6; Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20; Mt 22: 1-14

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah speaks of a feast offered by the Lord: “The Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure choice wines.” Jesus tells a parable about a feast in the Gospel of Matthew, “Behold I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the feast.” Note that the feast is provided for all peoples. Each of us is invited. Stewardship is a response to this invitation.

The feast to which Isaiah refers might be called in Biblical terms “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). Jesus longs for this supper. At the Last Supper He states, “I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day that I drink it with you new in the Kingdom of my Father.” (Matthew 26: 29) The Feast about which Isaiah speaks is our salvation, that glorious moment when we are united with the Lord in Heaven.

In an indirect way St. Paul speaks of this same feast in his letter to the Philippians, our second reading. Throughout his letters Paul captures the essence of the stewardship way of life, and his comment to the Philippians is particularly apropos. Paul tells us “My God will supply whatever you need.” Of course, that is an important part of his message to the people of Philippi, but it is an important stewardship reference for us as well. Our trust in God, our understanding that God will indeed provide, and He will meet our every need, is what allows us to practice stewardship so freely. This does not mean that we merely sit back and wait for the Lord, but it does mean that we are willing to take the risk, to share freely and generously, knowing that we walk with the Lord and that He will, as Paul assures us, “meet our every need.”

The Philippians evidently had been generous to Paul and to his ministry. He acknowledges that in his letter. However, he also implies that it is equally important for them to be givers. It is reminiscent to that broad stewardship statement in Luke 6:38: “Give and it will be given to you: good measurefor with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Many are invited, but few are chosen.” With those words Jesus closes His Parable of the Wedding Feast in the Gospel reading from Matthew. It is only seven words, but they are words filled with meaning for us. As mentioned, God invites all, and He invites often. However, to respond to the invitation we must hear it. (“He who has ears to hear; let him hear.”) Are we among those who truly hear the call and the invitation? In lives of stewardship, God works through us, and it is this presence of God in our lives and how we live them which brings us salvation. Thus, we must first hear the call, and then we must respond to it. As Jesus said on several occasions, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Are we active followers or merely passive listeners?

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 25: 6-10A; Ps 23: 1-6; Phil 4: 12-14, 19-20; Mt 22: 1-14

If we received an invitation to a royal wedding feast, it is likely we might be flattered and make every effort to attend. Yet none of those invited by the King in today’s Parable of the Wedding Feast attend. In fact, they refuse twice and then actually mistreat those who bring the invitation.

Jesus was very careful with what He said and communicated in His parables. What then is His real message here, and how does it apply to us? Each of us has been invited to the Feast, in fact to several feasts. Mass, the Eucharist, is indeed a Feast. Yet, as we know, many do not respond to the Lord’s invitation to join Him at the table. Even those who do respond may not always keep in mind both the importance and the love behind this Feast.

God invites us in so many ways to become close to Him, to answer His invitation and to embrace stewardship as a way of life. This invitation comes to us constantly through Holy Scripture and through the Gospel. How many of us hear the Word, but then just go back to our lives as they were before? That is what is happening in this parable. Those invited ignore the invitation and continue with their lives. The key message from Jesus is that it does not matter if we respond to God’s invitation with anger or indifference; they are equally grave reactions.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 5: 1-7; Ps 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20; Phil 4: 6-9; Mt 21: 33-43

Some of the great articulators of stewardship have used the image that God has given each of us a garden, a vineyard if you will, and how we care for and share the fruits of that garden is the measure of our stewardship, our willingness to recognize our giftedness and to use those gifts to glorify God and to help others. Both the first reading and the Gospel on this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time deal with vineyards, and St. Paul connects the two together with sage advice.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a vineyard, which was blessed and advantaged. It was cared for by a loving owner; it was planted on fruitful soil; the seeds used were the best (“the choicest vines”); it was well protected (the watch tower); and a wine press was built in preparation for its wonderful yield. But yet it only produced wild grapes. Understand that “wild grapes” as described were bitter and poisonous. How could this happen? What does it mean? The vineyard is, of course, a reference to the fact that God gives us everything. He prepares a situation where we can produce great fruit. However, the difference is that the fruit produced is dependent upon the human will and the human effort. We must be prepared to live as the Lord wishes, to be disciples, to be good stewards if we expect our gardens to produce good fruit.

St. Paul speaks of peace toward the beginning of the Second Reading and also in the last verse. Paul often made reference to peace both as a greeting and as a farewell. For Paul there were three perspectives of peace: 1. Peace from God: this sense of peace and comfort is a gift to us from God but we must both recognize it and seek it; 2. Peace with God: this has to do with our relationship to the Lord. Do we accept Him as our companion on the journey? Are we at peace with Him?; and finally, the peace of God: this is a peace beyond our comprehension, beyond our understanding. As Paul phrases it, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” For us to be disciples, for us to truly produce fruits in our vineyard we must be at peace with who we are, and we absolutely have to embrace the peace of the Lord.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares another parable with us — the Parable of the Wicked Servants. The connection between this reading and the first reading from Isaiah is unmistakable. Through this parable Jesus makes it very clear to us that if we reject Him we can never produce the fruit the Lord expects from our garden, our vineyard. We all are familiar with Jesus’ trial during the Passion, the charges made against the Lord and His responses. At the core of all of this is the fact that it is-was not Jesus who is-was on trial. It is we. To reiterate the image of the garden and the vineyard, we need to grasp that what we do with that vineyard is our trial; it is how we are measured in our lives. To be fruitful, we must be committed and we must be working at it. God knows that stewardship is not easy. However, it is what is expected of us.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 5: 1-7; Ps 80: 9, 12-16, 19-20; Phil 4: 6-9; Mt 21: 33-43

Throughout his letters to the various communities of faith, St. Paul offers some excellent advice. In today’s reading from his epistle to the Philippians he urges them to “have no anxiety at allthe peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Of course, we may be familiar with the adage, “easier said than done.”

St. Paul is trying to remind us that if we trust in the Lord, if we turn to the Lord regularly, if we view the Lord as our constant companion and supporter, many of the trials we face and many of the burdens we bear will be easier. People who have a consistent and faith-filled prayer life understand both what St. Paul is saying and the truth of what he says.

Two important facets of lives of stewardship are prayer and trust. Too often we may become overly self reliant, trying to carry our crosses without the help of the Lord. Develop a prayer life and awareness that Jesus is there to help, every day in every way, and the world can be a much more positive place. As St. Paul tells us in the final verse of today’s second reading if we do all of this “Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 28, 2014

September 28, 2014 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 18: 25-28: Ps 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; Phil 2: 1-11; Mt 21: 28-32

We all know and understand that Jesus taught with parables. Depending upon how you count them, there are as many as 40 in the New Testament and most scholars believe that 23 of them are included in the Gospel of Matthew. Over the last few weeks and continuing today we have heard a series of parables proclaimed in Matthew, Chapter 21.

The Parable of the Two Sons (today’s Gospel) again presents us with what we may find a disputable conclusion, at least in terms of how we interpret things based upon our understanding of life as we know it. That parable follows the themes of God’s way versus our way and the idea of humility as an important aspect of stewardship.

Ezekiel, you may recall, was a prophet who was held captive in Babylon and wrote his prophecies between 593 and 571 B.C. The prophet takes great pains to point out to us that God is always in the right, which may mean that we are often in the wrong. Ezekiel anticipates the conflict we will feel in the parables Jesus gives us — one which reminds us over and over that God’s way is not necessarily our way. One of the basic stewardship messages we may hear consistently involves the fact that we are gifted, and the true measure of how we live is how we use those gifts to help those in need and to build our own faith communities. We must always remember nevertheless that our use of those gifts is measured on God’s terms, not ours.

St. Paul has fond feelings toward the Philippians. It was Paul who established their Christian community, and it is Paul who reminds them through his letters what he feels they must do to maintain and develop that Christian community. His message is as applicable to us today as it was to them. Paul puts it bluntly to the Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” Someone once said that there is no room for egos in the stewardship way of life. Paul knew that; he knew that a community factionalized by power or control or pride could not truly be followers of Jesus. It is a question we must constantly ask ourselves: “Am I doing this for the glory it will bring me, or am I doing this because I love others?” We are called to love over and over.

Jesus knows what our motivations are. That is His point in the Parable of the Two Sons. One son refuses to go work in the vineyard, but then has second thoughts, and goes and works. The other son assures his father that he will go work in the vineyard, but then does not. Jesus asks simply, “Which of the two did his father’s will?” Of course, we, like the disciples to whom the Lord posed the question, can immediately perceive that it is the son who did work in spite of his initial refusal. The point of the parable is that God does not want “lip service” from us; He wants commitment and dedication and fulfillment. He wants us body and soul. It is how we live that will show God we love Him and that we love those around us. It is not what we say, but it is very much what we do. What we do is stewardship.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 28, 2014

September 28, 2014 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 18: 25-28: Ps 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14; Phil 2: 1-11; Mt 21: 28-32

Jesus was in many ways the ultimate example of humility. Yet, humility is not a trait that is highly thought of in our society. We live in a world where independence and relying on no one else is considered to be a high form of expression. For the past few weeks, our second readings have been drawn from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Most of the New Testament consists of letters (epistles). Philippi was a major city in Macedonia, which is part of Greece. When Paul evangelized there, it is believed that it was his first venture into what we consider today to be Europe. Paul felt a warmth and closeness to the Philippians, and that is demonstrated in his letter to them. It is nonetheless his appeal to them as a community that provides us with an important stewardship message in today’s reading. St. Paul says, “humbly regard others as more important than yourselves.” This is a direct reference to how Jesus lived.

If we lived in a community where everyone else regarded each of us as more important (everyone else looked up to us; and we in turn looked up to everyone else), what a community it would be. Each of us would be elevated, lifted up by all those around us. What the result would be is an unbelievable sense of unity. That is what Paul calls the Philippians to, and it is what Jesus calls us to through stewardship.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 21, 2014

September 21, 2014 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 6-9; Ps 145: 2-3, 8-9. 17-18; Phil 1: 20C-24, 27A; Mt 20: 1-16A

I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23) St. Paul expresses the hope that we all must feel at times. When the burdens of life become great, we fall back on the hope in Christ, which is indeed our greatest hope and promise. Our readings for this Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, indeed our readings every Sunday, relate directly to the hope we have in Christ. Life is an ongoing challenge, whether it is through our own lives or whether through the lives of those to whom we are close.

Our Old Testament reading, our first reading, is from that remarkable Book of Isaiah. Isaiah, although writing almost three thousand years ago, manages to capture many of our feelings and experiences in today’s world. God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” A stewardship way of life is God-centered, but we must have an understanding that God is operating in a different way and on a different plateau than we are. The gulf between us and God is great, but yet He is there, a part of our lives every moment of every day. It was through Jesus Christ that Heaven came to earth, and our task is to embrace that, appreciate it, and live it.

St. Paul had an extraordinary trust in God. It was that trust he wished to communicate to the Philippians and to us. That trust is at the core of lives of stewardship. Paul spent a lot of time traveling on ships. His expression “I long to depart,” when viewed in the original Greek, is paralleled by ship’s captains who became anxious to begin their journey, to depart the port and get moving. Imagine a captain in a foreign port; he wants to set sail and head toward home, toward his family and the comfort that brings. That is the same thing Paul is saying. His home is with God in Heaven. He is anxious to get there, but at the same time he recognizes that he has responsibilities and things to do here on earth, now. No matter how we look at it, our work may not be done either. God has called us to use our special gifts to thank Him and to build His Kingdom. Our goal should be to do that; not next week, not next month, but now.

Finally, in today’s readings we come to Jesus teaching us about the ways of God through the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. The Lord speaks of our reward, but He also reminds us, as does Isaiah, that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus told this parable in response to a question from St. Peter. The Apostles had given up much to be with Jesus. They had sacrificed lives and families and futures on earth to follow the Lord. Peter merely asked “What do we get out of it?” Jesus’ response through this parable tells Peter and the other Apostles that they will be rewarded, but that God’s methods, God’s rewards, cannot be compared to what people expect, to our perception of what is the way to do things.

We can understand the law — that is, you get what you deserve. We have a problem understanding grace — that is, God loves all and He loves them on His time and in His perspective of time. God will embrace and love all, but He may not do it according to our understanding or our standards. God is fair to us and to others, but truly the last may be first, and the first may be last.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 21, 2014

September 21, 2014 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 6-9; Ps 145: 2-3, 8-9. 17-18; Phil 1: 20C-24, 27A; Mt 20: 1-16A

“What’s in it for me?” That may be a question we pose often. It is certainly part of our societal lexicon. Whatever may be proposed to us, by governments, advertisements, friends, and even our Church, our parish, we may well respond with something similar to that question, which put another way, can be phrased “What do I get out of this?”

That is surely a challenge when it comes to stewardship because the good steward’s motivation is supposed to be higher, done out of love, not lived because some reward is in the offing. Of course, there is a reward, and that is the point of today’s Gospel, a parable that frequently produces consternation. How can it be fair to pay those who began working late in the day the same as those who began working at the beginning of the day?

The Lord makes it clear what He means, however, with the closing statement, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” The point is simply that the reward for living correctly, for loving and practicing stewardship, is eternal life with the Lord. We tend to think in terms of hours. God thinks in greater terms, and it is He to Whom we need to respond.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Nm 21: 4B-9; Ps 78: 1BC-2, 34-38; Phil 2: 6-11; Jn 3:13-17

On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we celebrate the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation. Multiple times in scripture a reference is made to Jesus having been “hung on a tree.” This reference to the Cross as a tree has a much deeper meaning for us. The Cross became a life-giving tree for us, and it turned around Adam’s original sin when he ate of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The Cross is so central to our beliefs.

The readings for this Feast each have a strong relationship to our appreciation of and our understanding of the meaning of the Cross. The first reading is from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is the fourth Book in our Old Testament (also the fourth book of what is called the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament). It derives its name from the historical fact that it involves two censuses taken of the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, one at the beginning of the trek and one at the end. This particular passage from Numbers 21 describes how the people are discouraged and they literally speak out against God. One of the hallmarks of stewardship is trust in God, faith in the Lord, our hope in salvation through Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites, we may at times become discouraged, but we must always focus on the fact that God is there for us always, that He watches over us, and that He is our strength.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians, our second reading, presents Jesus as the ultimate example of humility. As much as we may resist it, humility is another key characteristic of a stewardship way of life. From His humble beginnings in a manger to the humiliation of death on the Cross Jesus bore humility like none other. His example of humility is a standard for each of us as we approach living as a steward. St. Paul makes reference to some of Jesus’ humiliations, but it is well for us to keep in mind all the ways the Lord might have approached living among us, but He chose the more humble approach consistently, represented by His birth, the fact that he came as a baby, not as a grown adult; His willingness to be a child beholden to His parents; His humble way of teaching and addressing people; His humble approach to life in general, becoming a carpenter, a basic and useful trade; but most of all His humble acceptance of death on the Cross with all of the agony and sacrifice associated with that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That scriptural statement, considered by many to be the central and climactic point of John’s entire Gospel, is so full of consequence to us as Catholics and Christians that we could almost analyze it in detail phrase by phrase. Let us just examine the opening phrase, “For God so loved the world…” We have a tendency to filter our own understandings through the many ways a word is used and what it may mean to us. The word “love” certainly falls into that category. The love described here, the love that God feels for us, that He felt for His Son, and that was returned to Him by His Son, is a love almost beyond our comprehension. It is a complete love, shared with all and felt for all, believers and non believers. There is no way that we can match or equal that love. It is a love beyond our ability to feel, but that is exactly what we are called to strive toward. Another word for stewardship is quite simply “love” — unconditional and total.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Nm 21: 4B-9; Ps 78: 1BC-2, 34-38; Phil 2: 6-11; Jn 3:13-17

One of the aspects of our stewardship should be a desire to understand and appreciate the significance of many of the celebrations, feasts, and solemnities we as Catholics observe and experience. Today’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena; the construction and dedication of churches by Helena’s son the Emperor Constantine on the site of Mt. Calvary where Christ was crucified; and, the return of the Cross to Jerusalem by the Emperor Heraclius II.

As Catholics, we need to remember the Cross every time we make the Sign of the Cross. We make that sign often and almost always at the beginning and the end of our prayers. However, that sign in itself is a prayer. Sometimes we do it automatically without really considering its meaning and importance. Rather than a hurried sign, we should make the Sign of the Cross with reverence, respect, and the constant reflection of how vital the Cross is to our salvation. Stewardship invites us to practice our faith with this deference and appreciation to the Lord, truly in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 33: 7-9; Ps 95: 1-2, 6-9; Rom 13: 8-10; Mt 18: 15-20

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” That is one of those statements made by the Lord with which almost all are familiar. The key, of course, is gathering “in His name.” Most of us realize that Jesus is with us always, but His point is that if we acknowledge His presence and are conscious of it, His presence is greater.

On this Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. Our first reading is drawn from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. The name Ezekiel means “God gives strength.” That in itself is a message we would be wise to remember and to use in everything we do. Ezekiel was born around 627 B.C. Recall that the Babylonian invasion and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians occurred in 586 B.C., 41 years after Ezekiel’s birth.

Ezekiel is considered a major prophet. Were you aware that each of us who has been baptized is considered a prophet as well? The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it this way: “In Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that He gave were anointed in His name. This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah Whom God would send to inaugurate His Kingdom definitively. It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest and also as prophet.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #436) In Baptism we are each anointed, and we each are called to be prophets.

Contrary to popular perception, the prophets did not so much predict the future as to comment on their present. Through stewardship each of us is called in the same way to be aware of the present every day and to devote ourselves to service to God and to others. Just as Ezekiel reflects the coming of Christ in today’s reading (“You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.”), a comment that gives hope to the people, one of our roles as prophets is to bring hope to others.

And what is the best way to bring that hope? St. Paul in our second reading sums it up as Jesus did, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” At the beginning of today’s reading from Paul’s letter, he says, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” That statement has been debated for centuries, as some who take it literally have concluded that Christians cannot have a debt. However, they are ignoring that important clause which follows, “except to love one another.” That is our debt and that is a major motivation to be a good steward. St. Paul is not talking about credit cards; he is talking about Jesus’ challenge to us to love one another, and the Lord’s call to discipleship and stewardship.

As mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, today’s Gospel closes with Jesus saying, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Note that just prior to that the Lord says, “amen I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” As is sometimes the case there is a stewardship message hidden among those statements. In ancient Greek the word translated as “agree” also meant to “harmonize.” The implication of that is that each of us is called to share our gifts, and when we all share together we produce a great chorus, a grand anthem, for it is together through stewardship that we are powerful, and when we do that in His name, we are most effective.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 33: 7-9; Ps 95: 1-2, 6-9; Rom 13: 8-10; Mt 18: 15-20

As we review and reflect upon the readings for any given Sunday, it is good to try to connect what is proclaimed with our lives and our understanding of stewardship. Sometimes it may be an entire passage, like the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Other times it may be just a phrase, or even a single word.

In today’s first reading from Ezekiel, God declares, “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the House of Israel.” Ezekiel lived and prophesied some 600 years before the birth of Christ. If we listen carefully and attentively to Holy Scripture, we may notice that Jesus almost always refers to Himself as the Son of Man. Here is a reference to that phrase centuries before He came. The other key word in that sentence is the word “watchman.”

We may think of a watchman as a kind of security guard, but that is not exactly what the word meant in Ezekiel’s time. It was synonymous with “steward.” This is God declaring that Jesus, the Son of Man, is appointed the steward of Israel and all of us as well. The appointment is from God, not from a human. We are called in the same way, by God, to be good stewards.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 20: 7-9; Ps 63: 2-6, 8-9; Rom 12: 1-2; Mt 16: 21-27

Jesus does not mince words in the Gospel when He says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We may not find much comfort in those words, but that is because our focus tends to be on life right here and right now, not the promise of everlasting life offered by the Lord.

The readings on this Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time emphasize much of the challenge we may have in following the Lord and doing what He asks us to. The first reading is from the Prophecy of Jeremiah. One of the longest books of the Old Testament, Jeremiah recounts warnings by the prophet of the same name to the people of Judah. Anticipating the Babylonian invasion in 586 B.C., Jeremiah warns the people that they must repent and change or they are doomed.

No one likes to be chastised, let alone rebuked. Jeremiah was doing what God had told him to. Yet, he was reviled and hated and eventually killed. In today’s brief reading Jeremiah is pleading with God to help him. He tells God he really does not want to continue because of how he is treated, but at the same time he acknowledges that the word of God “becomes like fire burning in my heart.” In other words, a higher power is within him. That same power is in us if we allow it to be. We need a “burning desire” to live as the Lord wishes us, to pursue discipleship through stewardship.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, our second reading, reiterates the challenge of living a good and spiritual life. One of his key warnings to us is “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” We must be willing to live, in modern terms “outside the box” sometimes. When Paul challenges us “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,” he is not asking us to lay down our lives, although many Christians through the centuries have done exactly that. In the idea of stewardship, we are fond of speaking of giving our time, our talent, and our treasure. However, the Lord wants more than that. He wants us to give of our very selves to serve Him and one another. That is the point which Paul is making. God wants our whole self, not just a small percentage of it.

As is often the case, Jesus takes it all a step further in the Gospel from Matthew. The Lord points out to us that if we really wish to follow Him we must deny ourselves (“Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself.”). This is similar to Paul’s command. Stewardship is a God-centered way of living, not a self-centered way. It is one of those ways in which we deny ourselves for the benefit of the Kingdom and for others. The reality of life is that it always ends in death, but Jesus has provided us a way to avoid that. That is what He means when He says “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus is indeed “the way and the truth and the life,” and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

One of our popular modern questions is “What’s in it for me?” What do I get out of living a life of stewardship? Jesus makes it very clear that He will “repay all according to our conduct.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 20: 7-9; Ps 63: 2-6, 8-9; Rom 12: 1-2; Mt 16: 21-27

All of the readings for this Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time confirm the fact that it is not always easy to follow the Lord; in fact, being a Christian and living as Jesus has challenged us to do can be downright uncomfortable.

We may not suffer the humiliations and dangers that our fellow Catholics do in many parts of this world; however, we do not live in a society which always views us in a positive way. Stewardship challenges us to follow and support our beliefs in more places than at church on the weekend. We are expected to set Christian examples, and we are especially expected to follow the beliefs we profess.

Jesus could not be more obvious when He states in today’s Gospel: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” At no time in Holy Scripture does the Lord ever say, “This will be easy.” Professing our beliefs in a society which may belittle them is certainly not easy. Yet, that is our call. St. Paul tells us in the second reading, “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” No, it is not easy, but Jesus expects us to be His disciple. The Lord wants us to embrace and live out stewardship in our lives.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22: 19-23; Ps 138: 1-3, 6, 8; Rom 11: 33-36; Mt 16: 13-20

“You are Christ, Son of the living God.” With those words Peter confirms and affirms that he and the other Apostles fully realize exactly Who Jesus really is. The readings on this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time address what it means to be a good steward; how God is the Creator and Designer of everything; and how we are expected to respond to the Lord’s authority.

In the first reading from Isaiah there is a telling statement in the first verse when the Lord identifies Shebna as the “master of the palace.” This means that Shebna is the “steward” of the palace. A steward is someone who holds the responsibility of being a master, but is not the owner. We, of course, are the masters of all we have and all we are, but we are not the owners. God is the owner; we merely hold God’s gifts, including all of our skills and talents, in trust, and are expected to use those gifts to serve God and others.

It is important that we bear in mind that Isaiah was a prophet, and what he is describing in this passage is Messianic in nature — that is, at the appointed time God will designate Jesus as His steward on earth, and it will be Jesus who truly holds the keys to the Kingdom — salvation and eternal life.

At the time St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, from which our second reading is drawn, he was most likely in Greece, preparing to travel to Jerusalem for the final time. He had not evangelized in Rome as yet, but planned to do so in the future. This letter is Paul’s longest and contains the most “theology” of any of his letters. Although the reading is brief, Paul’s style, commitment, faith, and understanding are richly presented.

Paul points out that God is and should be the center of our lives. Living a God-centered life is important if we truly aspire to be a steward. Just as in the first reading we hear that it is Jesus who holds the keys to the Kingdom, this reading reaffirms that it is only through Christ that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.: “from him and through him and for him are all things.” Observe that all is “for him” (the Lord), not for any of us. We cannot do what God can do, even though we sometimes imagine that we can. Paul closes by telling us that we should live not to honor ourselves, but to honor God… “To him be glory forever.”

The Gospel repeats to us (and the Apostles) again Who Jesus is and what He came to do. Take note that Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, which is the term He used most often to describe Himself. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” This is noteworthy in our understanding of not only the Lord’s perspective of Who He was, but in the perception of the Apostles, as well as ours. It was as if Jesus continuously emphasized the Holy Trinity. By calling Himself the Son of Man, when He was also the Son of God, the Lord made it clear to us that He was one with us.

He expands His question though when He says to the Apostles, “Who do you say I am?” This is the same question we must answer, in our daily lives and by the way we live them. Jesus, when He hears Peter’s answer, “You are Christ, Son of the living God,” proclaims that Peter is the “rock” on which He will build His Church. Peter later reminds us all that we are part of that structure, but assures us that Jesus is the cornerstone. Stewardship invites us to fulfill our part of that total structure as “We are one Body in Christ.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings